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Posts Tagged ‘tomato’

When I was checking on the garden last week, I noticed something that looked of place. It was too big to be a weed, but the leaves didn’t look familiar. I let it go and a few days later “it” actually turned out to be six separate plants, all bunched together.

Last year we had cucumbers, radishes and peppers in that bed, along with some borage and nasturtium. But these leaves didn’t look like any of those. After searching for seedling pictures of everything we grew last year, I think I stumbled upon an answer.

They look like Brandywine tomatoes to us. If that’s the case, I’m thrilled. However, we showed the picture to another gardener and they thought it was a potato, but we didn’t grow any potatoes last year.

 

Either way, we’ll let them grow a little bigger until we transplant them to a different bed or to large pots.

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Making salsa is a great way to use tomatoes from the garden.

Making salsa is a great way to use tomatoes from the garden.

We’re in the heart of winter here, and that makes me miss the long, wonderful days of summer. I wrote this post and recipe a while ago but realized I never shared it here.

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Right at the end of July and early August, we had more tomatoes than we knew what to do with. This is a perfect time to make a big batch of fresh salsa.

While I’m good with the jar salsa, there is nothing like when it’s fresh out of the garden with no cooking to muddle the flavors.

Here’s what you need:

• About two or three pounds of tomatoes, chopped. Ours were a mix of Roma and regular tomatoes (Brandywine and Celebrity are what we grew).

• A bunch of cilantro, finely chopped

• Hot peppers. We used about four jalapeños (two seeded, two with seeds) and two Anaheim peppers.

• One lime, for juice and zest

• Half of a medium onion, chopped

• Four cloves of garlic, minced

• Salt

Mix all the chopped vegetables and herbs together. Squeeze out the juice from both lime halves and add the zest from one half. Add a couple pinches of salt and mix again. Let sit overnight so the flavors mix. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Should make about six cups of salsa.

* To avoid the salsa being too watery, you can squeeze out some of the pulp & juice from the tomatoes before chopping. Add it back to the salsa until it’s desired consistency.

* As always, you can adjust to taste. To make it less spicy, remove the pepper seeds and ribs. Cilantro is necessary, but you can add more or less, depending on taste.

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A few weeks ago we were having a lazy Sunday morning, drinking our coffee and catching up on Top Chef: Masters. I don’t remember anything else about the episode except the Quickfire challenge: make an upscale version of nachos.

I’m sure each chef made something fancier than we ever could, but for the rest of the episode that’s all kept thinking about.

It ended up working out pretty perfectly — we had all the ingredients on hand. Plus, it was a great way to use up the variety of hot peppers and tomatoes we had picked earlier that week.

Ours were your standard nacho recipe, but they were so delicious, I think even Curtis Stone would have been impressed.

(more…)

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Probably the last vegetables we'll get from the garden this year.

Probably the last vegetables we’ll get from the garden this year.

As the weather gets colder, our plants are on their way out. It’s a bit odd because there are new eggplant flowers and pepper flowers, but they won’t have enough time to mature. We have a few more grape tomatoes that might be ready before it gets too cold, but pretty much everything else is done. We tried to plant some fall vegetables, but that plan seems to have failed. More on that later.

Overall, it was a pretty successful year. Not the best, but it was way better than what we had last year, or even the year before. I’ll recap everything in later posts, plus share some more recipes we made when all our vegetables were thriving.

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A good harvest

A good harvest

Except for the zucchini, everything in this photo came from our garden in the past two days. We had about 1.5 pounds of Roma tomatoes, two more cucumbers, about eight peppers, two eggplant, a couple dozen cherry/grape tomatoes and even picked some of the edible nasturtium and borage flowers. This makes me excited that we’re at least doing something right!

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Like people, vegetable plants need certain nutrients to grow and thrive. The big three are nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. There are, of course, other nutrients needs like calcium and magnesium that help plants.

Most commercial fertilizers have some mix of the big three, plus other micronutrients. We have a small garden, so I’m always unsure of the proper amount to add even with directions provided. Also, it’s much easier (and makes me more comfortable) adding natural ingredients to our garden and not relying on mixes.

There are plenty of things you can add to help give the soil a boost and most are probably on hand. While I’m sure there is some scientific formula to figure out exactly how much of each nutrient these add to the soil, we’re focused on the primary one these contribute.

  • Nitrogen. This is a big need for almost everything and too much can be just as dangerous. We mostly use coffee grounds because they won’t add too much to the soil, and it’s easy to adjust. They stay separate from compost stuff anyway because it makes the container a soggy mess.
  • Potassium. Bananas are a great source of potassium for humans, and the peels can be just as effective for plants. We just cut up the peel and bury it a couple inches under the soil. As it decomposes, the peel will add this nutrient.
  • Phosphorous. So this isn’t really a natural additive, but matches supposedly work well. My mom told me my grandpa, who always had an amazing and productive garden, would put matches in each planting hole for his peppers. Don’t use the wooden matches, they have to be the cardboard sticks in a small matchbook. We forgot to put these in the pepper holes, so I buried a few next to all our pepper plants.
  • Calcium. We had a really big issue with blossom end rot on our tomatoes last year, and I later learned a lot of this could be attributed to calcium deficiency. One of the easiest ways to correct this is with eggshells. We rinse out the shells and let them dry in the sun. When they’re ready (or when we need them), they’re laid on newspapers and crushed, usually by stepping on them. Then, the powder is sprinkled around each tomato plant.

We’re trying this all for the first time this season. If it works, I’m sure it’s something we’ll keep doing each year.

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This weekend we were weeding and doing some general garden cleanup when I found this strange, brown thing in our dirt. It wasn’t a bug or anything I recognized so, as is becoming my routine, I took a picture and searched for an answer later. Turns out it was likely a cocoon of the tomato hornworm.

Tomato hornworm cocoon.

Tomato hornworm cocoon.

I don’t think we’ve had these in the past, but we did have a crappy tomato crop last year and this could be to blame. The caterpillar/worm causes a lot of damage to tomato plants, mostly chewing through leaves and stems.

We have seen large moths like the adult form of the tomato hornworm on our porch before, so maybe this has been present all along and we never knew about it. Oddly enough (or maybe it’s the garden gods giving us a warning), this was in the raised bed where we planned to plant our tomatoes this year.

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There’s nothing better than a fresh tomato picked right from the garden. I think the wonderful taste can convert even the staunchest of tomato-haters.

Case in point: Matt never liked tomatoes (he’d eat every kind of tomato product – salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, etc. – but never the actual fruit), but after I made him repeatedly try tomatoes for a couple years, he’s starting to come around. Now he occasionally asks for tomato on sandwiches or salads.

Deer sheared off the tops of our tomato plants.

I’m not sure he’d eat a whole tomato himself so we plant these mostly for me–just give me a salt shaker and I can easily eat a few raw tomatoes.

This year, like the past two growing seasons, we planted two slicing varieties, two Roma and two grape tomato plants. We were happily watching our plants get established until one day I noticed something went wrong.

Three of the plants (both grape tomatoes and the early girl slicing variety) had stumps for stalks. It didn’t take long to figure out the deer chewed off the top part of the plant. Fearing they wouldn’t recover, we transplanted those into pots and replanted a few as replacements.

Now everything seems to be thriving, which is a good thing. I’d be thrilled with tons of tomatoes and can’t wait to see the first signs of the tomatoes turning red!

Grape tomato plant recovered after deer chewed off the tops.

Blossoms!

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It’s been about a month since we put everything in the ground, and so far our garden looks promising. That’s not to say we haven’t had any problems.

First jalapeño of 2012.

We’ve battled everything from deer to slugs and a variety of other creatures and insects that seem set on ruining our garden. Because so much has happened in the past several weeks, I’m going to break this up into a bunch of smaller posts.

I’ll start with peppers because those seem to be our golden crop. In a little more than a week our plants have gone from a handful of blossoms on a few stalks to actual fruits starting to emerge.

We got our first “harvest” on June 19 with one jalapeño. I’m kind of amazed it came so soon, but the weather has been above average temperatures for most of the year. We love spicy food so I’m hoping this is a good sign.

Homemade jalapeño poppers from last year.

Last year, the jalapeños were super productive (we almost always had a steady supply of 6-8 peppers). At one point, I didn’t know what to do with the 20+ jalapeños we had at one time, and then I found a recipe for homemade jalapeño poppers. They were kind of a pain to make but absolutely delicious. I’d love to have enough to make those again this summer!

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A couple weeks ago we planted most of our vegetables in the garden. Several hours and a few garden centers later we had our plants and herbs.

Everything is in it’s place, now it need to be planted. Peppers and eggplant in the front, tomatoes in the back.

It took a while to weed and prep all the beds but we managed and everything looks great!

Our garden is around the detached garage — we have two 4 by 6 raised beds in the back and four 4 by 4 beds along the side. It’s a perfect location because the back faces south and we get a great amount of sun throughout the day.

Last year, we didn’t rotate any of our plants, which might explain why our vegetables didn’t do so great. We switched it up this year and have everything plotted out a little differently.

Here’s our planting plan, starting in the back beds and moving around the side:

• Tomatoes – Romas, regular slicing ones (early girl and better boy) and grape, two plant of each.

• Peppers – five bell pepper plants, two jalapeño, one Anaheim and one mild banana pepper. We also planted two eggplants in that bed.

• Peas – these are winding down and we will plant cucumber and squash in that bed soon.

• Green beans — the Kentucky Wonder pole beans did great last year so we are trying those again. Still undecided on using a trellis or poles.

• Herbs – two parsley plants, cilantro, thyme, oregano, chives and two sweet basil plants. We also want a Thai basil but haven’t been able to find it this year.

• Lettuce and brussels sprouts – we planted a few different varieties, red and green looseleaf, butter crunch and another variety I don’t remember. Our broccoli was eaten by squirrels so we planted some brussel sprouts at the back of the bed.

Let’s hope everything does well this year!

Bed for the beans is prepped and ready. We’ll plant squash and cucumbers where the peas are now (back).

Matt is planting the brussel sprouts at the back of the lettuce bed.

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